Sorry - I don't remember the exact name. I know there is mechanism to patch the kernel at runtime by loading modules without need of the reboot as long as the structures involved are not affected. It is used by servers for security patches and recently by Ubuntu & Fedora.
- What is the name of mechanism
- Is there any how-to for hand-compiled kernels
- Is it possible to automatically check if the change x.y.z.a -> x.y.z.a+1 changed any structure or not